Knife Review: Cold Steel Code 4 Spear Point


I’ve always been a value (read: cheap) knife buyer. Not crappy knives, just good knives that don’t cost all that much. I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than about $35 or $40 for any blade in my collection. My Kershaw Blur was a Christmas gift. Fortunately for me, there are plenty of very good performers in that category, as long as you don’t mind buying imports. But at the recent NRA Annual Meeting, RF, Nick and I were at the Cold Steel booth as one of their reps gave us a look at some of their newest offerings. That’s when I picked up their new Code 4 knives and fell in love . . .

050913_0008What grabbed me was the combination of its silky smooth feel on opening and the thin, aluminum-gripped profile. While the Code 4 is about as large a knife as I’d every want to carry as an EDC blade, I broke Commandment X in a big way and coveted the hell out of it. So when RF bought one for both Nick and me, I was pretty jazzed.

The Code 4 is no shrinking violet. Again, this is a large knife. While the blade length is about the same as my Kershaw Blur and Spyderco Tenacious, the Code 4’s hollow ground, lockback 3.5″ spear point is housed in a significantly larger 5″ handle. Combine that with the fact that it’s a beefy 1.75″ across the beam when closed, and you have yourself a good sized chunk of metal riding in your pocket.


How big is that? Big enough so that it juuuust barely squeezes into one of the side knife pockets in a pair of Tru-Spec 24-7 pants.


For me, it carries better in the back pocket of a pair of 5.11s.


On the plus side, though, the Code 4 is surprisingly light for its size. The big blade only weighs 4.3 oz. and feels like less. That’s probably due to its very thin profile. And it carries low enough to hide its impressive size. But you can pretty much forget about toting it in a front jeans pocket. Although, if you do, you just may be the most popular guy at the bar.


The Code 4 has some rudimentary jimping in the form of four shallow slots molded into the aluminum frame. It also has a nice choil, so you’ll be able to get a solid, comfortable hold on things.

050913_0012Hope you’re a ‘tip up’ carrier (I am), cause that’s your only option. The frame’s drilled for either righties or lefties. The thumb stud comes weighted for righties, too. But not to worry, southpaws. It’s reversible.


One more note on carrying this baby. The Code 4 has only one real flaw – the clip. First, it looks too small for the length of the knife and it probably is a little too short. Over time, its lack of length may lead to marginally more torquing and eventual failure. But that’s just a guess. Then again, maybe that’s why Cold Steel includes an extra in the box. It’s made of stainless steel and seems to hold the knife in place just fine, but it just doesn’t look right, as short as it is.

The bigger problem, though, is the clip’s basic design. The front scoop – that upsweep that’s meant to slide over the edge of your pocket – just isn’t high enough.


So unless you’ll be slipping the clip over some thin material, you’ll have to pull the front edge up with your fingernail to get it started. I know, it sounds minor. And stupid. But it gets annoying. And it’s so unnecessary. Check this out:

clip comparison

The Code 4 is on top. The middle one is the Kershaw Blur and the Spyderco Tenacious is on the bottom. You can see how much lower the front edge of the Code 4’s clip is, which makes it difficult for it to easily ride up and over the edge of all but the thinnest materials.

Because I don’t want to have to lift it each time I slide the knife into my pocket, I’m going to take the damned thing off and bend it myself to a more upward slope. Ridiculously anal and picky? Probably. But it’s a pain in the ass the way it is. And I haven’t had to do that with any other knife I own. It’s a silly unforced error on Cold Steel’s part.


But let’s really get down to business — that blade. Here’s where the Code 4 shines. Out of the box, the knife was plenty sharp. After just a few passes on a ceramic sharpening steel, it left my forearm smooth as a baby’s butt.

Cold Steel selected Japanese AUS-8A steel for the Taiwan-made knife. And though AUS-8 can be relatively soft, the Code 4 passed the cardboard shredding test with flying colors. Yes, it needed a couple of passes to bring the edge back to where it was before, but it made quick work of a stack of the brown stuff without failing or tearing.


And solid? The Code 4, with Cold Steel’s Tri-Ad Lock, is built tougher than Kate Upton’s glass. There’s zero give in the blade, either back and forth or up and down. That rock-solid Tri-Ad lockback holds things in place beautifully. In fact, it was so solid at first that I initially had some trouble releasing the blade. But after a little use and some break-in, it’s now exactly where it should be.

All in all, the Code 4 gives you a helluva lot of knife for its $99 MSRP. Expect a street price when they hit retailers to be somewhere around $75. Again, it’s s a lot of knife to schlep. But when what you carry is as well executed as the Code 4, you’ll happily make room.


Blade length:        3.5″
Overall length:    
Width closed:      
4.3 oz
Japanese AUS-8A

Ratings (out of five stars):

Design: * * * *
Dead seksi. Its large size fits even my small mitts beautifully, feeling very natural in the hand. The thumbstud is right where it ought to be with plenty of clearance so you can get at it easily. And that blade opens sooooo elegantly. The only negative: that damned clip.                    

Ergonomics (use): * * * * *                
Dead solid perfect. I literally can’t think of anything I’d change when it comes to using it as intended.                     

Ergonomics (carry): * * * *                      
It’s a big knife. But you know that when you buy it. If carrying a folder this big is a problem, you probably should have bought something else in the first place. Again, though, the clip. Too small and too low.                   

Overall: * * * * 1/2
A mostly great knife with one relatively minor flaw. If it were perfect, though, you probably couldn’t afford it.                   


  1. Aharon says:

    Very good review. I’m not into folders (apart from multi-tools and SAK) yet this review was impressive.

  2. Colby says:

    Good review. I have been EDC a Cold Steel American Lawman almost exclusively for about 3 years. The pocket clip, like you said is stiff and initially difficult to clip over the seam of a denim pocket, but once you get used to applying some real “oomph” when inserting it you forget how hard it is and really appreciate how securely it holds itself in the pocket.

    I have also been really happy with Cold Steel’s AUS-8A steel. You mentioned it can be soft. In my experience it behaves much like some of the harder carbon steels I love to use. It takes a fine, razor edge without too much effort, it tough (I have used mine to batton through firewood in a pinch), and if it does get dull, it is incredibly easy to strop back to a razor edge, even in the field. Some people prefer harder steels that hold an edge longer, but the trade off is that they are harder to sharpen usually. I have run into that inconvenience in the past with VG-10 and 154cm blades when trying to hurridly process multiple animals before the cold accompanying nightfall sets in. Often you don’t have time to stop and spend a lot of time on your edge in the middle of the job, so a knife steel that you can quickly freshen up on a honing steel often means you actually spend less time sharpening and more time cutting. In that department, AUS-8 has been great for my uses.

    The biggest disadvantage to the Lawman is actually the G10 handles. Because they are so abrasive under the clip, until they break in, they can actually abrade the clothing material beneath the clip upon insertion and extraction. They are also not very gentlemanly looking when you are wearing a suit. For that reason, assuming I don’t give a CRKT Eraser a chance like I mentioned on the other review, the Code 4 might be a great companion knife to my Lawman for those times when I’m wearing more formal attire. When I first saw the Code 4 I thought “ahaa! no more ragged out suit pants pocket corners!”

    1. Mark Davis says:

      Agree with you on Coldsteel’s AUS 8 steel. I prefer it to many other steels, including Benchmade’s 154 CM and D2 tool steel. Cold Steel does a nice job with their hollow grind too, which really helps with slicing.

      I have an American Lawman by CS, but it mainly rides in my truck. I find the Tri-Ad lock to be so stiff that opening the blade is somewhat difficult. An inertia opening is simply out of the question.

      With respect to the abrasive G10 handles – I had the same problem with it tearing up my pants. Then I sanded the G10 in the area under the pocket clip. Problem solved. Some guys also use JB weld to smooth this area (see nutnfancy’s vid on this).

      I like the look of the Code 4, although I’d like to see more jimping. The scales are so smooth, the knife may be hard to hold onto when things get wet.

      1. Dan Zimmerman says:

        There are no scales on the Code 4. Just satin-finished aluminum.

        1. Mark Davis says:

          Dan – I stand corrected. However I still have concerns about the smoothness of the aluminum when things get wets and slippery.

          Nice review, by the way.

      2. Colby says:

        Yeah, I didn’t like the idea of epoxying my G10 handles. I also didn’t know enough about G10 to know I could sand them without compromising them when I purchased the knife. Instead I just wore it and dealt with it for a while until finally they actually got a little smother just due to constant use. They no longer cause as much abrasion as they used to on wool or poly fibers, but still damage cotton a little. I am actually also looking at getting a Cold Steel AK47 or Recon just for fun. But the first thin I’ll do when I get it is lightly sand the clip side of the grips like you did.

  3. Mike in TX says:

    Great review! I saw a tanto point Code 4 at the expo, and I couldn’t resist. It’s become my EDC and I love it!

  4. Gabe says:

    That’s not an extra clip- it’s a left handed clip for Southpaws! On the plus side, the street isn’t $75, it’s $55!

  5. Tom says:

    Hey I appreciated your review. This review was part of the reason I went ahead and purchased this knife. It’s a great blade. I am not having as much trouble as you did with the clip. While I would agree with you that the clip could be angled up a bit more, mine isn’t terrible. Also, I totally disagree with you about the front pocket jeans comment. Unless you wear “painted on” skinny jeans, I think this would be fine for most normal sized people. I carry mine there and I have to keep checking throughout the day to make sure it’s still there. It blends great and is ultra comfortable. Again – thanks for the great review!

  6. Aaron says:

    Nice review! I do disagree with the front pocket carry. For a year now I EDC…wait for it….lol……a voyager vaquero XL. LOL. Suprisingly enough, it hides very well in jeans, khakis, but not so well in my dress style pants pockets (angled top of pockets). I usually carry my 07′ era voyager large tanto, which works nicely in my dress. I am lookinf at the code 4 because I will be moving to FL and a 5.5″ blade vaquero is frowned upon. LOL. Albeit, the XL Voyager Vaquero is a VERY intimidating knife (a few friends call it a ISIS knife) so going to a smaller blade, for me, is a little different as I have always carried a +4″ folder. The clip points, spear points, and vaquero blades are a lot thicker (from spine to edge) than a tanto, so the Code 4 in a tanto should be more concealable. As a CCW permit holder, I have learned too that you will notice SOOOOOO much more of what you think will show compared to what people can see. I have “surprised” many friends (and a few strangers) with my “pocket sword” that would never have guessed the knife to be anywhere near that size! Even though they had seen the top poking up (about 1″ is above the pocket edge). As long as a knife sits low (most cold steel minus the espada do), it can be easily hidden in the back corner of your front pocket with no notability. Whether tucked dress shirts, or casual. As for the Code 4, I am curious on how the grip (or lack there of) can act when wet. Thanks!!!!!

  7. Keith says:

    I see this knife is offered in XHP steel now, and it has a street price of only $75. This could get even more interesting.

  8. WillysWonka says:

    With respect to the abrasive G10 handles – I love them as I carry on the belt. No chance of losing it

  9. reed says:

    Talking bad about AUS8 is about like talking bad on 440C but, I have found the CTS-XHP to be a worthy upgrade of steel. The edge is scary sharp, stays sharp longer and doesn’t take much more time with a good sharpener to bring it back. The extra cost is not much compared to the harder steels and I hate hard-to-shapen steels that take too much time!

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Knife Review: Cold Steel Code 4 Spear Point

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